EMC VNX System CostBy: Reid Smith-Vaniz

One question I get all the time is, “How much does an EMC VNX system cost?” Well, the answer is - it depends.

When EMC released the VNX series in 2011, it had five models. About two years later, five more models were introduced. Those second models are referred to as the VNX2 series by storage industry professionals. You have a lot of organizations that have the VNX1 series and others who are buying the VNX2 series, so it is important to figure out what VNX series you are talking about when it comes to cost.

Let’s Talk Controllers

As a starting block, what you have in a storage arrays are the controllers. There are small controllers and big controllers. The basic difference is the number of processors, the amount of cache, and the number of I/O cards the system can hold inside the controlling unit. All of this extra cache memory in the I/O card equals more effective horsepower for the controller. The larger the system, the more “horsepower” in the unit.

Let’s Talk Software

The second thing you have got to consider when it comes to pricing a VNX system is the software. There are all types of different software that comes with EMC storage systems: replication software, cloning software, recovery software, and analytic software to name a few. All of this extra software can be purchased individually or bundled. Software packages can be very pricey - especially depending on what package you choose.

If you’re thinking about putting in a site-to-site solution with replication, you will need to have storage systems with two sets of replication software and your EMC sales rep may recommend additional appliances such as RecoverPoint. Additional appliance systems all carry installation costs, software, maintenance, and more. So it is important for you to understand your long-term plan for the storage system to understand the true cost of your storage infrastructure.

Let’s Talk Configuration

Another factor in the cost for a VNX storage system is the capacity you add to the unit. There are different types of drives that you can add to an EMC VNX system and all of these different storage mediums cost a certain amount. On the high-end are the SSD, or “flash” drives. These drives are becoming one of the most important pieces of the storage architecture. They are fast and burn less energy, but are expensive. At the time of writing this blog, SSD drives for EMC VNX systems are 100GB and 200GB. There will be other drive sizes released in the future - 400GB or 800GB, but currently SSD drives are not as large compared to the storage demands of today. Deduplication software does not make these drives more viable, even though it is becoming a relatively commonplace technology. The truth is that, even with flash, most companies have to deploy other types of drives to get the capacity they need for their systems.

Let's Talk Installation

Some shops are open to installing a system all by themselves, but EMC is making it more difficult for a user to install a VNX system by themselves in their shop for the first time. EMC wants service revenue and wants the user to have a good customer experience, but installation fees can range between $8,000 and $150,000 - depending on what is being installed. Now, most service agreements tend to be somewhere between $8,000 to $50,000, but we have also seen users getting charged as much as $3,000 to install PowerPath on their servers, which is a ridiculous charge to install software in less than 15 minutes.

Let's Talk Maintenance

Most storage systems come with one year of support and some may come with three years of support, but you need to be clear about the type of service you want for your EMC storage system. If you purchase the maintenance upfront, the storage maintenance can cost you anywhere between 10-15% of the list price of the system per year, and after 2-3 years, the maintenance cost can skyrocket to as much as 30% of the original system list price. EMC does this because they’re trying to get users to move to the next generation of technology. It is a win-win for EMC because users tend to either upgrade to the latest and greatest technology or they will have increased revenue from maintenance renewals.

Let’s Talk 6 Months Down the Road

Getting the storage system is the easy part… owning a storage system after six months is the hard part. What I mean by that is, after month six you probably have a lot of different users that know about the new VNX system and are starting to consume its storage space (often at a rate much greater than what you planned for).

The situation is typically that we receive a certain amount for a storage budget - whether it is $100,000 or $1,000,000 - and we go out and spend that budget on a storage array and may not take the future into account. So, what you also need to be thinking about is the upgrade costs for an EMC VNX storage system.

Most VNX systems can be upgraded by adding additional DAEs (disk array enclosures). These disk expansions typically cost between $15,000 and $60,000+, depending on the technology that comes with them. Typically, the discount you receive on these expansion units is dramatically less when you enter into “upgrade season” than if you purchase these upgrades upfront - sometimes paying as much as 10 - 30% more when upgrading than purchasing them upfront.

However, one problem with purchasing upfront is that you only have a certain amount of budget to work with and it can be tempting - just like when you go shopping at Costco with a large cart - to fill it all up at once.

Other Options:

There are a lot of good storage vendors out there - Pure, NetApp, IBM, and more. All make good storage arrays. With the right timing, you can get a good storage rental for the job. You have to make sure you have the right team to install the system, and sometimes you don’t have the right team to manage the storage system long-term. So, even if you get the storage technology from one of the latest vendors, you have to make sure your team has the capability to implement and manage it.

Another option to consider is used storage. There are a lot of models available on the secondary market from EMC - VNX, VNX2, CLARiiON, etc. So, if you’re considering buying new storage arrays, you may want to consider blending your new EMC purchases with used EMC technology on the secondary market. Used technology typically costs 20 - 80% less than new and can be supported with a third-party maintenance agreement.

The key to buying used EMC equipment is to make sure that the equipment has been fully tested, comes with a warranty, and that the reseller has the engineering capabilities to help you configure the equipment before, during, and after the purchase. Not all used equipment is created equally - so make sure that when you buy used, you purchase the equipment from a reseller that understands equipment testing, proper packaging, and installation procedures.

Reliant Technology provides certified used EMC equipment that you can use in your environment at a fraction of the cost of the OEM. Contact us today to find out available options for affordable EMC upgrades as well as maintenance.